HAMMOND | Padmalochini Umakanthan has come a long way from her hometown of Chennai, Tamilnadu in India – educationally, figuratively and literally.
Culminating two years of study at Purdue University Calumet, received her master’s degree in engineering during commencement exercises Dec. 18 at the Star Plaza Theater in Merrillville.
She enrolled at PUC after researching American universities on the internet.
“In the world rankings of education, the U.S. is at the top,” Umakanthan, 24, said. “I wanted to work in a specific profession (engineering), and Purdue came up, so I decided to pursue furthering my education here.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree in electrical and communications engineering from Sastra College near her home, she concluded that to pursue further education, she would need to prepare herself to make a move to a far-away country.
Again, she utilized the internet, this time to connect with other international students who were continuing their education in the U.S. — including some at PUC — to gain advice and tips.
“I was sheltered and not used to being on my own,” Umakanthan said. “I didn’t want to just come to a foreign country and not know anyone; I wanted to have a connection.”
Once settled in at PUC’s University Village student apartment complex, she focused on her studies while supporting herself as a tutor and teaching assistant. From January to August 2012, she also served an internship for Intel Corporation at Folsom, Calif.
Her work there so impressed her supervisors that the company offered her a full-time engineering position after graduation, which she has accepted.
Back on campus, she embraced master’s degree thesis research about electrical devices and conversations relative to keyword recognition.
“My purpose was to devise a model to help machine systems comprehend human language,” she said. “This would enable systems to work toward better customer service and (addressing) other concerns.”
In real time, when a user speaks into a device, there may be surrounding noise. So systems must be intelligent enough to separate the user’s speech from noise and other unnecessary information.
“It can be used for customer support as automatic answering machines,” she said. “Medical transcriptions and the automobile industry also can take advantage of keyword recognition models. There are many Air Force funded projects in this area. So, definitely, speech processing is a field that attracts a lot of attention.”
Professor of Electrical Engineering Kaliappan Gopalan calls Padma – as she is known on campus – “a dedicated, highly motivated and diligent student.